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Election Reform Victory Against Debate Commission, Maine Senate Snubs Ranked Choice

Created: 02 February, 2017
Updated: 17 October, 2022
2 min read

In a surprising turn of events, several major developments in the world of electoral reform broke this week.

Federal Judge Rules Against Commission on Presidential Debates

On Wednesday, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C.

ruled against the Federal Election Commission in the case of Level the Playing Field et al v. Federal Election Commission. Her groundbreaking decision held that the rules governing participation in the presidential debates were decided unfairly and arbitrarily.

Level the Playing Field (LPF), the organization that brought the suit, challenged the 501(c)(3) nonprofit status of the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) arguing it used unfair criteria to determine the participants of the 2016 presidential debates.

The Judge ordered the FEC to “reconsider the evidence and allegations and issue a new decision consistent with this Opinion within 30 days.”

Peter Ackerman, founder of Level the Playing Field, said the decision “lays the groundwork for removing the primary obstacle to providing Americans with the independent alternative to the two parties that polls clearly indicate they want."

Lawyer for the plaintiffs, Alexandra Shapiro noted this was the “first time the FEC and CPD have been successfully challenged over debate rules. This is an enormously important ruling. It could pave the way for a new kind of election in 2020.”

Maine Senate Undermines Successful Election Reform Measure

On the other hand, the Maine Senate dealt voters a crushing blow this week when they requested a solemn occasion on Maine’s Ranked Choice Voting law, which was passed by a majority of Maine voters in 2016 under Question 5. The move may effectively undo the will of Maine voters by requesting the state’s high court issue a legal opinion on the constitutionality of Question 5.

Some of the law’s supporters have cited the lack of precedent for such an act, claiming it was out of order and not in line with the will of the people.

Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester seemed to agree. She stated that the legislature had the power to amend the constitution and implement the law swiftly. She told the Bangor Daily News, “we should honor the will of the people and avoid any delay.”

If Ranked Choice Voting is enacted, Maine would be the first state in the union to implement the election system.

Image: Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com